Fellow Barbadians, more than one century ago, at the height of the economic depression, a significant portion of the Barbadian population, estimated as high as 60,000 persons sought opportunities offered to participate in the greatest civil works project of the 20th century, the creation of a Canal that united two oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific, traversing the Isthmus of Panama.
The impact of this gargantuan effort and the shedding of blood, sweat and tears by these Barbadians has contributed not only to the completion of a Canal but the forging of an indelible and irrevocable bond of kinship across the ocean.
Indeed, many Barbadians made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of this great work. The men who came to be known as the ???silvermen??? , denoting the silver coins in which they were paid by the Panama Canal Company, did more than buy property, build homes and educate their children upon their return.
Their tremendous efforts and contributions to this homeland forged the creation of a middle class. For those who did not return to Barbados, they contributed to the development of not one but two nations. A hundred years later we call to mind that sacrifice and rejoice in the forging of a new era of brotherly love, friendly cooperation and economic ties.
Ladies and Gentlemen, today is being celebrated in Barbados as Panama Day, a day which should be seen not only as a culmination as a century of ties starting with the opening of a canal, but the beginning of a new era of cooperation between two countries, both now sovereign independent nations of the Americas.
May God continue to bless us all, as Barbadians and Panamanians join hands across the waters to continue our joint efforts to build on our proud heritage from the past.
I thank you.